The father - Part I

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"You should've seen your face. At first I thought you weren't even half as beautiful as your mother."

He made a pause to give me a grin. "Of course I was wrong."

I smiled at the mention of the woman I'd come to know only from stories, but that was so dear to me, without even knowing what she looked like. My father was talking about those first two months after my birth.

"I couldn't understand. Every time I would put you down, you'd seem alright. But then, in my arms..."

He stopped and at that point I couldn't contain my laugh.

"Well, you looked more like a potato."

"Dad!" I exclaimed and hitted him playfully.

I was only two months old when my father realized that he could never raise me on his own. And what a blessing that realization was! Soon after, more maids, with actual experience in taking care of a baby, were hired. And after that came the distancing of my father. By the time I was 3 years old, I would see him once a day, if I'd wake up really early in the morning, before he would leave for work. Until that once a day turned into once every 2 days, once every 4 days, and finally, by the time I was 5 years old, I would rarely see him around, even once a week.

 As I was looking at his face, noticing that the corner of his hazel eyes were wrinkled from his age, I couldn't help but wonder... At what price? 

At what price did he become a stranger to me, choosing to visit me once every two months, his only excuse being that "my protection" is more important than catching up. I was never allowed to call him, but at some point, I used to write him letters. Until he decided that wasn't safe either.

It took me such a long time to understand. So many wasted years, moving from one house to another, from one country to another, until that ended with being placed in a catholic boarding school, on a different continent.

My father was not working for the government, he wasn't he president, he wasn't the vice president, nor the head chief in command for the president's protection. My father was no one. That's all I knew.

Being in the US for over 5 years, people didn't ask me if I'm Italian anymore and every new girl that walks through the door of our catholic school heard that only from other girls. I had to learn to hide my accent, to try and walk unnoticed as much as possible. No one told me to do that, but I could see that in my father's eyes, every time he would come to visit, every time he would leave. 

"Be careful", were always his words. Through years, the definition of 'careful' changed. From passing the street precisely, when we were going to the Sunday service, outside of the boarding school, to having no friends, no funny stories to tell, no secrets to share.

This was my father's first visit this year, and tea, some funny stories and a good laugh in my small room seemed a great way to spend the afternoon, until he got a call, then another, and at the 3rd one, I just nodded for him to answer.

He tried to excuse himself, but I no longer cared for his excuses. There were moments, like just a few minutes ago, when laughing with him felt like a much better thing to do than get into a serious conversation.

He came back a minute later and it was hard to ignore the look of concern on his face.

"Everything alright?" I asked, frowning.

"No...Not really."

I expected an explanation, but it was obvious that it wouldn't come, so I just nodded again and tried to offer him a small smile. He looked disorientated for a moment, tried to take his phone out of his jacket, then decided against it.

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